Bristol, England [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] Marine Current Turbines confirmed on Wednesday that installation of its SeaGen commercial tidal energy system will begin during the week of August 20th in Northern Ireland’s Strangford Lough marine nature reserve. According to the company, the 1.2 megawatt (MW) capacity system will be the world’s largest ever tidal current device once connected to the grid.
A commercial demonstration project with permission to operate in Strangford Lough for a period of up to 5 years, the installation of SeaGen this summer represents Phase 2 in a three-part company plan to develop full-scale commercial tidal farms.
“We will build on the success of SeaGen to develop a commercial tidal farm, of up to 10 MW in UK waters, within the next three years. With the right funding and regulatory framework, we believe we can realistically achieve up to 500 MW of tidal capacity by 2015 based on this new SeaGen technology,” said Martin Wright, managing director of Marine Current Turbines.
Future turbines, which will generally be rated at from 750 to 1500 kilowatts (kW) per unit (depending on the local flow pattern and peak velocity), will be grouped under the sea, at places with high currents, in much the same way that wind turbines in a wind farm are set out in rows to catch the wind.
“SeaGen’s installation is a very significant milestone for both Marine Current Turbines and the emerging marine energy,” added Wright. “Following our previous experience with SeaFlow, our 300 kW experimental test system installed in 2003 off the north Devon coast, we are confident that SeaGen will show that tidal energy can be truly competitive with other forms of power generation. Decentralized tidal current energy is fundamentally predictable and sustainable.”
The SeaGen 1.2 MW Commercial demonstrator consists of twin axial flow rotors, 15m to 20m in diameter, mounted on wing-like extensions on either side of a tubular steel monopile approximately three meters in diameter and set into a hole drilled into the seabed.
The installation in August will be carried out by A2SEA A/S of Denmark, one of Europe’s leading offshore installation contractors. The A2SEA jack-up barge will transport SeaGen from a shipyard in Belfast to Strangford Lough on August 20th. It is expected that the drilling of a single pile into the seabed and the installation of the twin-turbine device will take 14 days, with commissioning and power generation to the local grid shortly afterwards.
“We are delighted to be working with Marine Current Turbines on this important and challenging project and hope it is the start of a long and rewarding relationship as tidal technology enters the marketplace in the UK,” said Martin Huss, sales and marketing director of A2SEA.
Recognizing the special marine environment of Strangford Lough, Marine Current Turbines has undertaken a comprehensive environmental monitoring program. An Environmental Impact Analyses completed by independent consultants recently confirmed that the technology does not offer any serious threat to fish or marine mammals.
The rotors on SeaGen turn slowly at 10 to 20 rpm. A ship’s propellers, by comparison, typically run 10 times as fast. In addition, the risk of impact from SeaGen rotor blades is extremely small bearing in mind that virtually all marine creatures that choose to swim in areas with strong currents have excellent perceptive powers and agility, giving them the ability to successfully avoid collisions with static or slow-moving underwater obstructions.
SeaGen was developed on the basis of a SeaFlow protoype turbine installed by Marine Current Turbines in 2003. It has taken the subsequent four years for the company to design and build SeaGen and secure the necessary environmental and planning consents.The £8.5 million [US$ 16.8 million] Marine Current Turbine project received a £4.27 million [US$ 8.4 million] grant from the UK Department of Trade & Industry’s Technology Programme for SeaGen.